Talkingshop: Rapha Condor’s Luke Mellor

VeloUK talks to a young rider progressing well in the development programme introduced in 2012 by British UCI team, Rapha Condor – Luke Grivell-Mellor

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A key moment in any rider’s career is when they come out of the Junior ranks and become a senior. So many are lost to the sport for many reasons. The successful ambitious ones will be looking for a pathway to a pro career and for those that don’t make the cut in the GB Academy, the future can sometimes look quite bleak.

Enter a UCI team, Rapha Condor, with the most experienced manager in the UK, John Herety. He carefully selected some talented youngsters and put them together with some experienced mentors such as Kristian House. The result was a pathway for these youngsters to get valuable experience in UCI racing and other important races here in Britain.

Former British Road Race Champion Kristian House chats to Luke Mellor at round of the Circuit Series

As a development team, the benchmark that success is measured in is not in results but in progression and a rider’s ability to learn from those around him. For Luke, he says 2012 has gone well. “I’ve not had too many results but clearly progression through the year is there. I feel stronger now to how I was at the start of the year”.

An example of that was the mid season point and the British Road Race Championships. “The national road race was good for me because I hadn’t expected to go as far as I did. Early on, I was suffering a bit but managed to keep going and then Endura Racing split the race. That helped me as I was still there and I told myself, I’m still here, I have to make sure I get round.”

Luke then got a fourth in the UCI event, the Tour of Tobago. “That was savage so to get round that was good” he says.

“From about July onwards, I felt I was riding stronger like when I was in Vuelta Leon and felt really good . I was going over the climbs well. Not the front group but not the last either. On the second to last stage, I was feeling pretty comfortable in the group (with JT Locke) and I got nose bleed. After some treatment from the race doctor, I managed to catch Kristian and ended the stage between 30th and 40th which I was happy with considering it had been a tough day.”

The performances in Spain certainly caught the eye of many because the jump from the junior ranks to the senior one, especially at UCI level, is not easy. Asked if there was any pressure on him for results, Luke replied “In the big races, there wasn’t too much pressure. In the stage races we had to get round and help people like Kristian out by getting bottles and stuff like that.”
Getting bottles said quickly seems very easy. Most fans will have seen pictures or TV coverage of riders going back to a car for a bottle or three. Looks easy but to do it in a big race at UCI level comes with new pressures.

A highlight for Luke, the British Road Race Championships.

Luke, like many riders racing at national level, had done a little of that sort of thing but said the key learning experience was in the first training camp for Rapha Condor. “We’d do the training and then it was practicing getting a sticky bottle from the car, getting a rain jacket on and off, changing wheels and the small things that if you can’t do quickly, could ruin your race.”

To help him learn, Luke and the other young riders had the manager John Herety and mentors like Dean Downing and Kristian House. Luke explained that it would be the manager who would direct operations before the race and then from the team car but on the road, the mentors would help them during the race and after it as well.

Luke picked out former British Champion Kristian House was a rider he learnt from. “In races I have been in, I’ve tried to position myself near him because he’s very good at positioning in a race and normally in the right place.”

“When we were racing in Tobago (a UCI race), we were in the second group with Mike Cuming and there were two other guys up the road. Kristian said, ‘if you feel good, attack now’ and I did. I finished fourth and picked myself up some UCI points. So having people like Kristian there giving us tips was really helpful.”

It would appear a season on that not being considered for a place in the GB Academy despite finishing second in the National Junior Series was actually a good one for him in the long run. His father, owner of the bike shop Dave Mellor Cycles in Shrewsbury, explained “Luke’s been a bit of a slow burn and whilst he is obviously very talented, we’re out on a bit of limb in Shrewsbury.”

“I am surprised that with the times he was doing and the results he was getting, he wasn’t picked up at talent team level and really only ever got selected for GB cross a few times. He was second in the national road series (juniors) and wasn’t selected for the Worlds which was a little bit strange.” He went on a preparation race and came out best Brit I think and then didn’t get selected. Best Brit isn’t always something to write home about but I think he should have been in the mix.”

Dave is a former GB manager and like many from that fold (I include myself in that!), was pushed rather than leaving when he felt the time was right. Whether that played a part in Luke ever being considered for the development programmes in GB is debateable but outside of the selectors, Luke did find some allies in GB.

“I got Luke to give Chris Newton a ring” says Dave “and I have to say, Chris was absolutely brilliant. He took time out of his schedule to talk to Luke and promised a few things and the next day a few contacts came through from France and Italy. Luke went to speak to John to ask what did he think about them and then bang out of the blue, he gets an invite to the Rapha Condor Sharp team. That was like fantastic.”

Luke says that he didn’t think he’d get on the academy because of his lack of a track background.
“I felt without the track work, I wasn’t likely to get on and before I had found out whether I was or wasn’t on the academy, I’d already spoken to John at the Tour of Britain in Telford. He’d made me an offer there and I’d already accepted that and was well pleased with the pathway I chosen. I certainly think I made the right decision there.”

“If the team hadn’t taken that route, I’d been looking at going abroad and been talking to a team in Italy. I’d got an offer from one in France which I think would for sure have been harder work. To have to move out there and not get the same level of support I have here”.

Luke’s experience certainly highlight’s the need for such development teams. What does his manager John Herety think of the youngster’s progress? “He’s made good progress in 2012” says the Rapha Condor manager. “Luke would have fared much better if he hadn’t had two crashes at key times during the early season which was compromised by the injuries”.

Luke crashed in the Tour of Taiwan and the Lincoln Grand Prix which came before a key event, the An PostTour of Ireland. “Despite these setbacks” says John, “he came back to finish the season strongly. He rode well in the Vuelta Leon and if you look at his result in the British Road Race Championships, he also rode very well considering his age.”

Luke in time trial mode in 2011 aboard a Giant, a bike available from Dave Mellor Cycles.

In 2013, John will be looking to push him on quite hard as it appears that Luke can take the workload needed to go to the next level. “We can no longer wrap these guys in cotton wool. We have to push them hard. At the end of the day, that’s what they signed up for.”

Part of that ‘push’ will see Luke step up and ride with the team in Australia at the start of the year in the tough Aussie Classic, the 60thSun Tour which has moved from its slot in October where’s it been for five or more decades and into a January slot before the Tour Down Under.

Luke says he’s looking forward to the trip to Australia and is currently training in Tenerife with a big group of young riders. It’s a far cry from last year when he went to Majorca on his own using some prize money from cyclo-cross to fund a week of training for his 2012 season. This week, as the cold snap hits the UK, Luke with some teammates from Rapha Condor as well as other teams will be getting in the hours.

That he explained will be very different to training back home which is generally done on his own. Living in Shrewsbury in the West of England, Luke says most of his training is done solo and that many of the long rides can be quite boring when he’s not having to concentrate on riding at certain levels set by his coach Ken Matheson.

“I work with power and heart rate and Ken gives me a structured programme based around a block of four days . Two days are structured with different efforts and then there’s two days riding at a specific level. Like I’ll do an effort on the flat just below threshold or do some threshold work on climbs as well as sprints.”

But training is just one part of the equation. There is also the race craft and he says going to Australia will be a big help getting that ahead of the 2013 season. The SunTour is expected to have a very high level entry from the pro world and then there’s the Bay crits which are as tough as the Tour Series here in Britain. If not tougher with all that Aussie machoness!

The racing in Aussie will just be the start of a big season for the Shropshire rider. “I’d like to put some pressure on myself to get some results next year but I know I am still young and there’s more development to come.”

“I’d like to do something in the Premiers where the level is pretty high. To get top tens and on a good day, who knows. I’ll also be trying to win local races and also back that up with good performances in the high level races I do through the year.”

It’s all a far cry from his early races at 14 or 15. In a short space of time, Luke has got to a point in his career where he’s within touching distance of racing at the highest level and no doubt, another year with the men in black will help him progress further towards that goal.

Thanks to Luke, Dave and John for their help in writing this feature.


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